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Internet Predators – Protecting Your Children
“Parents teach their children how to cross the street safely and require a watchman, but allow them to play on the information superhighway without any safety precautions.”
Studies by the National Institute on Missing and Exploited Children concluded that one in five minors had been sexually harassed online in the past year, with 5% receiving aggressive offers in the form of requests to meet, phone calls, mail, money, or gifts. 70% of solicitations took place at home, but less than one-quarter of minors told their parents. The average age at which minors are first exposed to Internet pornography is only 11 years. The dangers children face online can be divided into passive or active risks:
Passive risk takes the form of unwanted material, such as pornography, being available to children who seek it. These risks do not represent immediate physical danger, but are inappropriate for their very content. More benign risks such as computer games and excessive internet browsing can also fall into this category, as they can cause major distractions, especially with schoolwork.
Active risks are those that seek out victims, the most well-known example being Internet predators. Active risks are the most dangerous because the consequences of victimization can be dire. In 2002, Christina Long, a thirteen-year-old girl from suburban Connecticut, found out how terrible it was when she became the first victim with the distinction of being murdered by an Internet predator in the US.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of information available on the Internet to educate both parents and children. A list of the most helpful resources is available in the Parent Resources section at Below is an abbreviated list of the most common tips:
· Place the computers in an open area
· Set and enforce rules that limit what websites children can visit
· Set time limits for computer usage, including time of day and total usage time
· Avoid suggestive usernames such as “teenbeauty” or “littleangel” in chat rooms and services such as MySpace.com, as these names are sought after by Internet predators
· Teach children to tell you if a stranger tries to contact them, no matter how innocent it seems
· Teach children that giving out ANY personal information online is dangerous and that predators often disguise themselves as children to gain trust. Even something as simple as the color of your child’s softball team uniform can be enough for a predator to find them
· Prohibit or supervise the use of a peer-to-peer file sharing program. These programs can be used to download pornography and are not blocked by standard internet filters
· Do not allow children to use webcams without supervision. Predators have been known to trick children into showing them “mild” nudity on webcams, then use the threat of posting those images on the internet to get the children to do more and more graphic acts. This can eventually lead to the children agreeing to meet the predator
· Use control and monitoring software. Tools such as those available at can be used to filter Internet content, prevent excessive use of programs or web browsers, monitor user activity to help identify and address unsafe behavior, and more
Educate yourself, educate your children and invest in the necessary tools to make sure they are safe. Don’t let your family say they never thought this could happen to them.
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